Colman’s Mustard could cut its historical ties with Norwich after owner Unilever announced it was considering the future of its factory in the UK city.
Colman’s has been based in Norwich for more than 200 years and mustard has been produced at the same factory since the 1860s.
However, the future of Colman’s plant is now in doubt after soft drinks maker Britvic, which co-owns the site, announced it plans to transfer its production lines for Robinsons and Fruit Shoot to east London, Leeds and Rugby.
The move will lead to the loss of 242 jobs at the site, although Britvic said it would attempt to help employees find roles at other sites.
Britvic said that the consultations would begin shortly and if the proposals go ahead, its part of the Norwich site would close towards the end of 2019.
A spokesman for Unilever confirmed it was reviewing its plant and one option was to close it down.
“Britvic and Unilever’s operations have been uniquely intertwined at the site for many years, relying on shared infrastructure. Although no decisions have been made, we need to recognise that Britvic’s proposed withdrawal would have serious implications for Unilever in Norwich,” he said.
“The review will look into detail at the impact of Britvic’s proposed withdrawal from the site and will consider options for the most effecting sourcing of the current Norwich product range. One of the options will include the potential closure of our Norwich factory.”
The company, which has 113 employees in Norwich, said it recognised Colman’s Norwich heritage and would work to retain that link whatever the outcome of the review.
Rhys McCarthy, trade union Unite’s national officer, urged locals to come together to apply pressure to ensure the future of Colman’s would remain in Norwich.
“Unite will not only be seeking assurances but applying pressure with the support of the local community, that the production and the much-needed jobs that are vital for the Norwich economy remain—anything else won’t cut the mustard,” he said.
“The whole of Norfolk needs to come together to fight for the future of Colman’s Mustard that is so identified with the city of Norwich. Colman’s is in the DNA of the city.”
Britvic’s move is part of a three-year transformation programme unveiled in 2015 to invest £240m in its UK manufacturing operations.
Simon Litherland, Britvic chief executive, said the decision to move production out of Norwich would provide significant savings in their manufacturing operations.
“This is not a proposal that we make lightly and we know this is upsetting news for our colleagues,” he said.
“The changes we are proposing today present significant productivity and efficiency savings in our manufacturing operations, deliver environmental benefits and, coupled with our ongoing investment programme in our GB manufacturing operations, ensure that we have the flexibility and capability we need to respond to changing consumer trends faster and more efficiently.”
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